Case Study

Using active learning to increase engagement and motivation in Mathematics


Using active learning to increase engagement and motivation in Mathematics


The initial aim of implementing Teach Active was to reengage a group of bright Year 5 and 6 girls who were underperforming in Maths. The idea was to adopt the positive messages applied through the physical elements to the Maths challenges in order to raise attainment and achievement.

Another objective for introducing the programme was to build the confidence of these pupils and empower them to believe in their ability to succeed in all areas of the curriculum. There were concerns that some Year 6 pupils would not achieve the expected end of key stage standard. They displayed an approach in which they would give in too easily and became frustrated when the answer was not clear.

After seeing a positive impact in the trial, an objective of embedding Teach Active across the whole school was to engage our teaching and support staff and allow them to build confidence and take ownership of leading sessions through this method of delivery.


After using the free sample lesson plans available on the website, I decided to trial the programme with our Year 5 and 6 pupils. I invited Jon Smedley, the founder of Teach Active and an ex Primary Teacher to introduce the programme to our workforce. He carried out staff training, and everyone was impressed with its potential. Working alongside the Maths Coordinator, dedicated slots within the timetable were allocated to the Year 5 and 6 intervention group with the focus being ‘fun, challenge, action, learn’.

The resources were simple and easy to deliver and focused on the pupils enjoying the sessions. The variety and number of lesson plans available are invaluable as it saved precious time and provided inspiration for meaningful and productive sessions.

The initial target group arrived enthusiastically and worked hard without consciously realising the content was challenging. The fact it was being delivered through active sessions allowed the pressure to be released and enabled them to enjoy their learning. They surprised themselves at how they could apply the theory in a practical setting and how much they could achieve. We were able to draw on the children’s enthusiasm for sport together with their naturally competitive nature to bring about additional learning in Maths.

"I love the fact children are proactively channelling their natural competitiveness into Maths challenges. They are often learning so many Maths concepts without realising they’re doing Maths. It’s fabulous to see so many smiling faces and increase in achievement in the subject."

Steve Tindall, Headteacher

Impact On The School

After the success of the trial group, the programme has now been rolled out throughout the whole school and all teachers have committed to one cross-curricular session per week to embed practical learning across the whole curriculum.

Our teachers are more confident in delivering physical activity and it has allowed support staff to take more ownership, with Teaching Assistants now taking groups away from the main activity for additional interventions. Just the other day I saw a group in the hall with some cones and balls working through one of the many lesson plans available. One of the main benefits is that each of the plans only involves equipment already in the store cupboard.

The key to its success with the teachers in our school is that it allows them the time and freedom to teach in a creative and rewarding way without changing their fundamental style. Our school already delivers a lot of cross-curricular activities, and so this programme fits in so effectively with our existing delivery.

The school recorded an increase in attainment in Maths for the Year 5 and 6 group initially targeted, with outstanding progress and achievement in their final SATs levels.

To schools that are new to the active curriculum, you can roll this programme out so easily with one year group or a booster group and quickly see the impact it makes on both confidence and attainment.

Impact On The Young People

The most striking and satisfying development since using the programme is the increase in self-esteem and confidence when approaching Maths lessons. Teach Active has helped to eradicate the ‘fear factor’ which has been replaced with an understanding that Maths can be fun and success is achievable.

Gone is the ‘I can’t attitude’, which has been replaced by pupils being able to think problems through from start to finish and solve them in a logical and productive way. Through this intervention, we have seen our children work hard and apply the principles learned in the practical sessions. Our pupils are naturally competitive and enjoy being rewarded for doing well. Teach Active has allowed children to learn together, develop teamwork, leadership and problem-solving skills which can be applied to all areas of learning and beyond.

In particular, April one of our Year 6 girls was struggling to connect with the Maths content and despite being a bright girl was experiencing a lot of anxiety and lack of self-confidence in the subject. She was significantly underachieving in this area, however, was a keen netballer who loved drama. We were able to use Teach Active as a vehicle to inspire a transformation in her overall performance. By engaging her in a practical way she was able to overcome her confidence block and start to increase her attainment. She achieved an exceptional result in her Year 6 SATs, getting 100% in her arithmetic paper and putting her in the highest percentile overall.

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